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Salem Baptist Church

Technology in the 1950s and 1960s

Women of Salem


During the 1940's Champaign-Urbana's population dramatically increased, including its African-American population. In 1940 Champaign-Urbana had a total population of 37,366, which included 2,106 African-Americans. By the time the 1950 census was taken the towns' population had expanded to 62,397, and their African-American population increased to 4,153. This more than doubling of the local African-American population was related to the dramatic expansion of the University of Illinois following the termination of World War II. As the War ended thousands of returning veterans came to Champaign-Urbana to take advantage of the G.I. Bill's provision for free education. The stimulus to the local economy led to the creation of many jobs and the modernization of infrastructure across the cities.

Reverand William Howe Donaldson

Technology changes in Salem Baptist

This changing time led a period of transformation at Salem Baptist Church. Hundreds of new members joined the church during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1948 the church's first parsonage was purchased at 304 North Third Street and in September 1950 the church had completely paid off its mortagage for the church building.

It was in this context that Salem Baptist Church thorougly updated its technological infrastrcuture. During the pastorates of Rev. R.A. Lillard and the first pastorate of William Howe Donaldson (1949-1953) the church established a duplex offering envelope system, purchased a typewriter, a motion picture projector and screen, filing cabinets, an adding machine, a mimeograph machine and other office equipment. Beyond the office, the church also purchased a new Youngstown kitchen, a hot water tank, and a gas furnace.

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Effects of technological change at Salem Baptist Church: Representation and Civil Rights

The technological changes at Salem Baptist in the early 1950s lead to new possibilities.

Using the new mimeograph machine, in 1958 the church was able to publish a commemorative 50-year history of their church building.

In the early 1960s the technology had an even more dramatic effect.

In the Spring of 1961 a new J.C. Penney's was to open in downtown Champaign, and the local African-American population had been promised equal opportunity for the newly created store-room positions.

However, when no African-Americans were hired the African-American ministers organized a concerted picketing and boycott campaign to protest. By April 1961 the protest movement had reached its goal - and Penney's began hiring African-Americans to work in the store.

Central to the success of the picketing campaign was the ability to rapdily disseminate information to all corners of the African-American community on a nearly daily basis. A 1961 Master's Thesis by a University of Illinois Sociology student reported that the ability to quickly and efficiently reproduce flyers and distribute them across the community strongly contributed to the protest's success.

Technological change in Salem Baptist Church led not only to transformation in the church, but also contributed to the success of later civil rights struggles in the community.

Salem Baptist Church


Carrie Franke "Injustice Sheltered: Race Relations at the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana, 1945-1962" (Ph.D., Education, UIUC, 1990).

Salem Baptist Church. "History of Salem Baptist Church." Unpublished history. 1993.

Aaron Morris Bindman. Minority Collective Action Against Local Discrimination: A Study of the Negro Community in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois” (M.A. Thesis, Sociology, UIUC, 1961).